As the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Afghanistan worsens, Justice For Refugees SA (J4RSA) is advocating for the Government to increase Australia’s humanitarian and refugee intake from the country to 20,000. It is also seeking an end to offshore detention, replacing temporary protection visas with a pathway to permanency, and providing tertiary education opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers.
This follows a campaign which saw almost 600 leaders from Catholic communities across Australia send letters to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, also asking his government to commit to an intake of 20,000 people from Afghanistan.
The letters were part of an initiative coordinated by the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum which is co-convened by the Jesuit Refugee Service Australia and Jesuit Social Services.
At its annual general meeting last month, J4RSA members heard accounts from two Hazaras of Shia Islam faith, who fled Taliban rule and have been living in Adelaide for some years. Both have family living in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are concerned for their safety, with the Taliban again in power.
“It is not a desirable place to be, it is not safe for a lot of people, especially minorities like women, girls, the Hazaras and anyone who opposes the Taliban’s ideology,” Fida Hussain told the gathering.
“In the past three months Hazara families have had to flee their homes, without any belongings.
“Now it is winter and the weather is cold, there is hunger, people are dying. Escape routes in the mountains are inaccessible.
“It is a real human crisis happening there right now.”
His views were echoed by Zahra Ahsani, who escaped from Pakistan with her two siblings in 2008. Their parents remain in Pakistan despite attempts over six years by the children, who have studied and are working in Australia, to sponsor and bring them here on a Contributory Parent visa.
“The situation there is currently really bad…people don’t have access to education, jobs and people are starving,” she told the meeting.
“Families are selling their children so they can feed other family members. It is really hard to see my people suffering.”
Zahra attended St Aloysius College, has completed a pharmaceutical science degree at UniSA and has been accepted to do her Masters at the University of Adelaide next year. She considers herself fortunate to have been granted Australian citizenship.
“I am so lucky that my 2½-year-old daughter is going to be raised here and she will be treated as a normal human,” she said.
Unlike Zahra, Fida does not have permanent status and is on a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa, despite having lived here for eight years.
As Fida explained, many refugees and asylum seekers who graduate from secondary school are not able to access tertiary education as they are ineligible for government assistance and must fully fund their course as they are considered international students.
Fida is currently completing a double degree in Social Work and International Relations at UniSA and is a full-time case worker at the Australian Refugee Association (ARA), where he assists refugees and asylum seekers with the transition to a new culture and helping them with visa applications.
Like him, many of those who rely on ARA for support are separated from their families who remain in Pakistan or Afghanistan and are unable to get visas to leave.
“The family separation is quite distressing and stressful,” Fida said.
There are more than 4200 Afghan refugees currently in Australia on temporary protection visas. In August when the Taliban took power, Australia announced it would take 3000 Afghan nationals on humanitarian visas.
For more information about Justice For Refugees SA go to www.justiceforrefugeessa.orgJump to next article